The New York Jets are a team on the rise. Here are three reasons why they can capture their first AFC East crown since 2002.
It’s not going to be easy, winning the AFC East that is, for the New York Jets. The team last accomplished the feat back in the Chad Pennington era, 2002 to be exact. This year’s version of Gang Green is like butter — they’re on a roll right now. The green and white have won two straight to even their ledger at 3-3 on the 2018 campaign.
As presently constituted, New York is staring up at the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins in the division as both squads sit at 4-2. I don’t think Miami is for real with Ryan Tannehill or Brock Osweiler as their quarterbacks.
New England is another story. The defending AFC champs have a ton of weapons and the GOAT in Tom Brady, of course. So knocking them off their perch will be difficult indeed.
With that being said, here are three reasons why Gang Green can capture the divisional crown this season. They’ll probably have to win eight of their remaining 10 games in order to do, it but it can be accomplished.
1. Opportunistic Defense
For years and years, New York has lagged behind other teams in creating turnovers. Not anymore. Through their first six contests, the Jets rank second in the NFL in takeaways with 15 (10 interceptions, five fumble recoveries). Only the Cleveland Browns (16) have more. That is very un-Jet like and it’s a welcome sight. That’s what separates good teams from mediocre ones — winning the turnover battle each and every outing.
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The improved play of linebacker Darron Lee and cornerback Morris Claiborne have led the way, along with the addition this season of middle linebacker Avery Williamson. The Jets are quicker to the ball this year and their defensive intensity has been kicked up a few notches as well. All very positive signs.
2. Sam is the man
The continued development of rookie quarterback Sam Darnold is evident. The USC product completed 80 percent of his pass attempts (24-of-30) for 280 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in New York’s 42-34 triumph over the Colts last Sunday. Darnold is starting to make better decisions in the pocket and he’s going through his reads more confidently. His accuracy is improving (now at 60 percent) and his QB rating has jumped to 83.7 for the season.
There have been some hiccups along the way (seven interceptions), but all rookies have growing pains. What is most important is that the Jets seem to finally have their franchise signal-caller. A young quarterback with a high ceiling — any team would have a chance to win every game with a player like that.
3. Ground and Pound
The Jets are averaging 215 yards rushing over their last two games. While that is a small sample, it shows that Gang Green can control the run at the point of attack and sustain drives. A strong ground game will be especially important in the Northeast when the weather turns chillier and more inclement. New York has to be a little more consistent from game to game — they tend to run hot and cold — but the potential for Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell to dominate toting the pigskin is certainly there.
The Jets rank seventh in the NFL, averaging 130.3 yards per game on the ground. A powerful rushing attack controls the clock and keeps some of these high-octane offenses on the sideline. Gang Green’s ground and pound game will serve them well moving forward and could propel them to that ever-elusive AFC East crown.